New Internationalist

The Facts

Issue 314

new internationalist
issue 314 - July 1999

The Facts?

Alex Carey, Taking the risk out of democracy.

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Click the names above to view the Corporate Profile of the companies.

The rise of Corporate Propaganda

  • US firms spend a billion dollars every year on anti-environmental 'greenwashing' PR.5

  • By conservative estimate ten billion dollars is spent every year on PR in the US alone.6

  • The US PR firm TJFR Products and Services maintains biographies of 6,000 journalists that can be faxed to corporate clients 'within an hour'.7

  • The Washington-based right-wing Heritage Foundation with a budget of over US $25 million is the country's wealthiest think-tank. Ninety-per-cent of its funds come from just 6,000 private donors.8

  • When Dow Corning faced controversy over its silicone breast implants their PR spend jumped from $6,000 a year in 1990 to nearly four million dollars between May 1991 and February 1992.9

  • Mcdonald's spends $1.8 billion a year on various PR.10

    Propaganda graph
  • An estimated $1.4 trillion is spent every year marketing goods and services worldwide.11

  • Eleven out of twelve of the world's largest PR companies are owned by the advertising industry.12

  • Each of the 20 corporate sponsors of the Atlanta Olympics spent $40 million.

The PR industry employs 200,000 people in the US. The PR industry in the UK employs more than 48,000 people, most of them in London. While in Australia there are 2,400 full-time members of the Public Relations Institute.

The Global Media System
Fewer and fewer media giants are controlling more and more of what we read, see and hear. The centralization of media power makes the job of corporate PR all the easier. A business-friendly environment, standardization of news and program formats and an occasional 'quiet word' with the editor keep a positive spin on things.

The Biggies

GDP Selected Countries
Uruguay - $10 Billion
Ghana - $6 Billion
El Salvador - $9 Billion
Slovenia - $18 Billion
Ethiopia - $5 Billion

Runaway PR

Corporate Profiles:
Burson-Marsteller1

  • Biggest PR company with 1998 net fees of $258.5 million.

  • Self-Description: A Global Perception Management Firm.

  • Employees: 2,200 in over 30 countries and 54 offices from Brussels to Bejing.

  • Client List includes Nike, The World Bank, Philip Morris, CARE, Dow Corning, ProChile, Mitsubishi and Mcdonald's.

  • Some History2: Helped clean up the image of the Argentinean junta during their dirty war of torture and murder. Worked to build a 'smokers' rights movement' to help Big Tobacco client Philip Morris. Helped Monsanto gain acceptability for its Bovine Growth Hormone. Clients include active supporters of the anti-ecological Wise Use Movement.

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Ogilvy PR Worldwide1

  • Ranked #11 with 1998 fees of $77.9 million.

  • 500 employees, 28 offices, three continents.

  • Self-Description: 'Multinational clients depend on Ogilvy PR to translate brands and messages across cultures and in local markets'. 'In 1633 when Galileo announced that the earth revolved around the sun, he was promptly imprisoned. Too bad he didn't have Ogilvy PR as his Partner in Communication.'

  • Client List includes Chemical Manufacturers Assn, IBM, Glaxo Wellcome, US Airways, US Department of Labour, Forest Products.

  • Some History2: Hired by the Nestlé Corporation to implement a strategy of 'pro-active neutralization' to combat critics over the baby formula scandal and other corporate practices.[image, unknown]

 

Hill and Knowlton1

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    JOHN GARRETT / CAMERA PRESS
    Ranked #2 with 1998 fee income of $206 million.

  • Employees: 1,250 employees in 49 offices in 29 countries.

  • Advertised Philosophy: 'Change Agent' promising 'a long-term plan that will support and possibly transform the way you do business. Not out of necessity but by design.'

  • Client List includes: Bell Atlantic, The Gap, Price Waterhouse, Encyclopedia Britannica, Cunard and the Chicago Tribune.

  • Some History2: Represented Big Tobacco in the 1950s. Managed crisis after Three Mile Island nuclear accident. Represented the human-rights- violating Turkish and Indonesian governments and 'Citizens for a Free Kuwait' to push for Gulf intervention.

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Shandwick1

  • Currently ranked #4 with 1998 net fees of $170.3 million and 2,129 employees.

  • Self-Description: provides 'superb thinking tied to our clients' business goals - out-of-the-box creativity, and execution, results-driven, seamless, consistent client service, nationally and globally.'

  • Client List includes: Time Warner, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Monsanto, Ciba-Geigy, Ford, Hydro-Quebec.

  • Some History2: Represented the corporate-friendly Earth Day, USA. Helped the Western Livestock Producers' Alliance battle against increases in grazing fees on public lands. Works with the Wise Use Movement to resist environmental regulation. [image, unknown]

 

1 O'Dwyer's Directory of Public Relations Firms, New York, 1998.
2 Stauber, John and Rampton, Sheldon, Toxic Sludge is Good for You, Maine 1995.
3 O'Dwyer's op. cit.,
4 World Development Forum 1998.
5 Beder, Sharon , Global Spin, Chelsea Green, Vermont 1998.
6 Stauber, op. cit.
7 Stauber, op. cit.
8 Callahan, David, The Nation, 26 April 1999.
9 Stauber, John, PR Watch, 1996.
10 Kovel, Joel, Z magazine, September 1997.
11 Cassino, Kim, American Demographics, November 1997.
12 O'Dwyer's op. cit.
13 McChesney, Robert, Extra! November/December 1997.

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